St Piran's crab discovered in Devon after 30-year absence
Published 22/08/2016 | 14:26
A species of crab which had not been seen in Devon for more than 30 years has been found living on a popular stretch of coastline.
St Piran's crab, which is also known by the scientific name Clibanarius erythropus, was found in Wembury Bay, near Plymouth.
The crab was a common sight along the south coast but rising pollution and sea temperatures saw the species, which is no more than 15mm long, decline.
It is a type of hermit crab which uses the empty shells of other molluscs to make a home and the last recorded sighting in Devon was made in 1985.
Devon Wildlife Trust volunteer John Hepburn made the new discovery purely by chance during a tour of Wembury Bay's rock pools - thinking he had spotted a netted dog whelk shell.
"Picking up the shell I realised it was not empty. What I assumed was a hermit crab was more confident than usual and came out a long way to examine the end of my finger," Mr Hepburn said.
"Being colour-blind, I asked the family I was showing around the rock pools if the crab was red, and having been told it was reddish, I thought it worthwhile trying to get a picture in case it was a St Piran's crab."
Once back home Mr Hepburn examined his picture, comparing it with online videos of St Piran's crabs.
His find matched the videos, a fact confirmed later by the Marine Biological Association of the UK.
This Devon discovery of a St Piran's crab follows its re-discovery in March in Cornwall, close to Falmouth.
Mr Hepburn added: "This is a pretty special find. There were lots of other people hoping to be the one to discover the first St Piran's crab outside Cornwall.
"That it's now making a comeback after being absent from our shores for so long shows that it is always worth making the effort to save our seas."
Marine biologists think the St Piran's crab may have re-established itself in Devon and Cornwall having been carried across the seas as plankton from existing populations on the west coast of France.